Stars of the World Championships : Valero Rivera

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4 November 2016

Each week, we offer you a full portrait of one of the players that will be in the spotlights during the World Championships 2017, with the help from one of the four ambassadors of the competition. This week, Valero Rivera as seen by Philippe Gardent.

His career

When you are the son of a legend, you sometimes have to get off from the invasive shadow of your father to make your way, especially when you have the same name. Here is a good summary of Valero Rivera Folch’s career, son of Valero Rivera Lopez, former Spanish international and mythical coach of the FC Barcelona, six times winner of the Champions League between 1991 and 2000. Valero Rivera rose through the Barça’s youth system, at a time his father was still coaching the main team, and had a tough early career, inhibited by the pressure surrounding his name. In 2010, he decided to seek exile in France, in Nantes, in order to keep improving far from this pressure. Good choice : he soon became one of LNH biggest stars (he was chosen as the best player of the championship in 2012), and joined the Spanish team in 2012… under the command of his father, who was the coach of the national team between 2008 and 2013. Despite the criticism, Valero Rivera took part in the home triumph in 2013 World Championship, scoring six goals in the final, and then became one of the « Hispanos’ » major player. Chosen as the best left winger of the 2015 World Championship, he was also the best scorer of the 2016 European Championship, with 48 goals. His outstanding performances and his consistency led him to a triumphant homecoming in Barcelona last summer. Aged 31, Valero Rivera now shines so much that he would almost overshadow his father, current coach of the Qatar team…

Philippe Gardent about Valero Rivera

Some could say he’s the new guy, because he broke through lately with the national team. He took his time to grow to full maturity, he has a heavy name to wear, and for years, there have been very good players at his position in the Spanish team. He has made a clever career. He learned, or rather refined his handball in Nantes, in a really dominant role of scorer and penalty taker, and now he’s blooming in a big team. I think he already had his path in mind for several years, he dreamed of coming back to Barça. I really like him, because he’s very efficient, and he combines efficiency and elegance. He’s one of this few players who are both good and elegant. He’s as skilful as a monkey ! And his vision of the game is as good as Michaël Guigou’s, a reference for left wingers. He could play at almost every positions. I remember when he was playing for Nantes, and when they were one less against us, he sometimes played as a pivot. He’s rather small, but he gave us hard time, because of his positioning and his ability to read the spaces. He always managed to unlock the defence. I can’t see a weakness in him. Defensively, as a winger, he’s not bad. He’s skilful, quick and consistent, everything you can expect from a winger. He is like poison to the defenders.

Valero Rivera about 2017 Men’s World Championships

The first word that comes to mind is “excitement”, I am excited to play this World Championship, it will be an organizational success for sure! Of course the fact that it’s played in France gives it an added value for me. I spent 6 wonderful years in Nantes, my wife is French and my sons are born in France. So I consider that France is my “second country”. Our goal is the medals, we are Spain and we always fight to win. Our group is a difficult one, as it is always the case in World Championships. Everything is getting more and more balanced each year and we will have to keep our focus.

The phenomenal play

Valero Rivera’s talent is perfectly summed up in this magnificient goal scored last year with Nantes, against Montpellier. From the clever move and run to get the ball deep inside the defence, to the marvellous « roucoulette » to beat the goalkeeper, everything in this play is brilliantly executed.

Picture : Stéphane Pillaud